Tropetropism

Tropes are known as patterns in media and perhaps society, but tropisms are the tendencies for some systems to respond to specific stimuli. e.g. Heliotropism is when plants turn toward or away from the sun on purpose. Both terms come from the greek τρόπος, meaning turning to or following.

Much of Julian Oliver’s work, in particular things like the Snowden Templates seem to offer a meeting of these two definitions in what we could possibly call Tropetropism. This project relies on the trope of CIA or NSA presentations that tend to summarize some nefarious wiretapping activity with overcrowded slides with understated captions. By capitalizing on this pattern that is known to many people regardless of their interest in his work, Oliver tricks us into an alternative framing of the information at hand.

In the same way, much of the work we have discussed seams to use recognizable or imaginable patterns to help us see a specific perspective, not intended by the pattern, but orchestrated by the curator who exposes the pattern to us in a specific context. The tropes of our current world become the signal of our future and give us a tool to comment with. As the Critical Engineering Manifesto points out, exploiting our world is a desirable way to expose it for what it is.

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